By far one of my favorite, most used and most employed travel accessories is my Apple* iPad mini.
My favorite thing about the mini is that when loaded with a bevy of apps it turns into a powerful and flexible ereader for everything from the latest best sellers, to classics and even graphic novels. Typically I enjoy reading multiple books at once; when traveling by backpack this is a luxury I previously had to forego… Until ebooks came along. On my mini, I’m able manage multiple titles at once, store news articles for offline reading, and even subscribe to my favorite magazine all on 1 slim package weighing less than a pound. Technology nirvana indeed!
I’ve found Kindle (Amazon: grumble grumble) to be my preferred reading platform. It’s highlighting, note taking and cloud storage are highly intuitive and convenient. The user interface is fairly streamlined and I’ve found it best replicates an organic reading experience. I do wish that Amazon would create some sort of lending platform for its app users (this is available for Kindle devices with a Prime account, as I understand it). The lack of capability to share titles among friends is by far the largest downside of ebooks, as far as I’m concerned.
Apple’s iBooks app is a bit clunky but remains my second go-to app for reading. It works great for epubs, pdf files, and is useful as a sort of “electronic file cabinet” for important and regularly accessed documents (e.g. Itineraries, PDF passport copies, etc). Apple is working to update this app’s features but it’s still not as fast or svelte as Kindle. I have a vendetta against Barnes & Noble and anger issues towards their proprietary ereader, the nook. I know some love the sharing service they offer, I just find their ebooks platform incredibly clunky, unoriginal and restrictive. I’ve found nook to have a dramatically reduced selection of ebooks, especially compared to the abundance amazon has on offer.
The biggest asset I’ve discovered with ebooks and the iPad is library books. Yes, library books!!! Using OverDrive, adobe reader, & my back-in-the-states local library I’m able to access thousands upon thousands of free digital titles. Many libraries now make ebook lending available to their patrons and I highly recommend you become familiar with the service before your next trip. For someone like me who is indefinitely on the go, with a strong appetite for new titles but very limited budget library ebooks are a godsend!!! Bonus: audiobooks are available for checkout and download straight to my iPad, perfect for long bus rides!
What’s better than being a bibliophile? SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY [& not supporting the corporate behemoths]!
My three gripes about the service–these pale compared to my enthusiasm and gratitude to the library–are that the selection of books is somewhat limited, appealing to more suburban readers and best seller lists. As I prefer non-fiction and rarely refer to popular recommendations, the library’s inventory can leave me frustrated. The limited selection may not fulfill my every reading desire but it’s also enabled me to discover other literary whims I would have otherwise been unaware of.
My other complaint about the OverDrive system is that at this time there is no way to return an ebook title once I’ve completed reading it. This means that I have to wait until the end of the lending period before a book can be returned, therefore unwanted titles occupy my limited checkout slots unnecessarily. Finally, I find it frustrating that many of the library’s lending ebooks are actually sourced through Amazon and Kindle however rather than access and search for said titles through your Amazon account, it’s necessary to navigate through the inelegant and inefficient OverDrive platform. Perhaps there’s a way to simply search the Amazon website for library ebooks, if so I’m not aware of it… Does anyone know how to do this?
Other useful perks of my iPad mini extend well beyond the ebook capacities. My Top 10 for the 16 gb Apple iPad mini are as follows:
1) ebook capabilities with library lending (thanks Multnomah County Library!) all in a comfy, lightweight portable package.
2) All-in-1 multi-functionality: all of my most used Internet capabilities all compacted into one cozy, handheld device
3) Offline access to data and utilities. This means I can reply to emails while well off the beaten path, or even write copy for the blog using the WordPress app–like right now!
4) Storing important travel information for on-the-go access, then deleting it forever. I often will download hotels reservations, directions written in Thai, or screenshot maps and transit data for offline access. This has been a life, trip & money saver on countless occasions!!!
Pro-Trip: learn how to use the screenshot function on your mobile device!
5) Transit entertainment: Before a big day of travel I not only charge my accessories but I also make sure that I’ve loaded up plenty of fresh content. This means downloading all my podcast subscription and saving newspaper and magazine articles for offline reading.
6) Instagram, Facebook, YouTube: It was a speaking engagement in Borneo about social media that initiated this trip so you betcha I want to stay connected and tuned into social media. With my iPad, I can capture content while out and about, immediately post it and operate multiple social media platforms simultaneously. Genius! Once posted I delete the materials on my device to free up storage.
7) Skype & FaceTime!!! Long-gone are the days of pay phones, calling cards telegraphs at Western Union. Telephone calls long ago (as in 10 years ago) migrated into the domain of Internet capabilities. Skype gives you the added bonus of video conferencing, ditto FaceTime if both users are on Apple devices. SuperBonus: it’s free!
9) Photo storage and display: I like carrying around shiny, happy pictures of loved ones and inevitably new friends along the way ask to see snapshots of where you come from, which parent you most resemble and gush over the cute dog you left behind. Tablets let you carry it all in one place and take impromptu travel photos along the way.
10) Travel guides on the fly: To be honest this is not a feature I use as much as I thought I would. Many people I know download lonely planet reference guides or destination specific apps. Language and translation apps are also popular and well-touted but I’ve found that it’s just not realistic or practical to use these in any day-to-day circumstances. From time to time, wikiTravel has been a helpful resource for orienting to history, cultural and primary attractions; they can provide great background and destination 101, especially if you download pages in advance for offline reading.
Long and short of it, my iPad mini is by far my favorite travel tool, connectivity device and entertainment platform. (I do wish I’d bought the 32 gb version, however.)
*Yes, I’m a fan of apple products however there are many other tablet options on the market that can serve the same the purpose. Many people are devoted to the Samsung Galaxy note series and I concur that there are some advantages to these with their google platforms. Notably (<–ha! Punny!), many non-apple tablets allow for direct connection to other devices such as laptops, keyboards and external hard drives; apple does fall short in this category. That said, if you want to bemoan Apple or debate the merits of devices there are plenty of other resources on the web with far more detailed information on that topic…